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Kiss Me


Kiss Me at Trafalgar Studios 2, London

“It always brings a smile to my face when I hear Bix Beiderbecke”

It always brings a smile to my face when I hear Bix Beiderbecke. His music is playing as we enter the studio, so I know the setting is either between the wars or we’re in a comedy thriller in 1980s Yorkshire.

It happens to be the former as we are confronted by a single bed, placed centre-stage atop a bright orange carpet. The mirrored walls at the back turn this claustrophobic space almost into a theatre-in-the-round scenario. The characters have nowhere to hide, their emotions naked for all to see.

This is a play primarily about sex. Our need for it, our hopes and fears about it, our concern that it is simply a physical act that somehow gets intertwined with the psychological and knowing the fine line leading to love is never far away. It has transferred from Hampstead Downstairs and is the latest penned by Richard Bean: Made In Dagenham, Great Britain and One Man, Two Guvnors being his biggest three successes.

[Claire Lams and Ben Lloyd-Hughes]

Around Georgia Lowe’s simple and efficiently designed bedroom of 1929, the audience watch like voyeurs in a seedy Soho club as the widowed Stephanie demands sex from the young stud Dennis. She is lonely and, although seeking companionship and love, wants a child so desperately that she is willing to join the long list of women hoping that a one-off sexual encounter with an unknown man will do the trick.

[Claire Lams as Stephanie]

Stephanie is played by Claire Lams, fragile and scared, full of hope for the future and seeking a means to leave the darkness and sadness of the war just gone. Worried that she is over thirty and this is her final chance to have a child, she is willing to face the single-mother stigma because her heart yearns so.

Ben Lloyd-Hughes’ Dennis is cocky and matter-of-fact. It’s like a job for him. His mission, to impregnate as many women as is required. He is good at it too, revealing an implausibly high success rate.

[Ben Lloyd-Hughes as Dennis]

Director Anna Ledwich doesn’t have much to go on with this static two-hander. Moving the couple smoothly around a small space is the task at hand here and she succeeds in dragging every nuance from the script, every look, every doubt.

This is quite a funny play but it is somehow unsatisfying. Lloyd-Hughes appears a tad cautious and uncomfortable. It felt like a long seventy minutes, too. There is little action and the jokes aren’t often or good enough to drive the characters to their inevitable climax. Kiss Me is not a comedy, yet I felt the drama was under-developed. It finishes prematurely without really succeeding in delving into some of the weighty issues it raises.

There is much to like about the two disparate characters and Lams carries the punchlines to perfection, but I found the play not funny or tragic enough to sustain the frustrations on show. More of an over-long sketch than a short play, almost like playwright Bean is just going through the motions rather than seducing me with the passion of his convictions.

[Ben Lloyd-Hughes and Claire Lams]

Running Time: 70 minutes (no interval)

Running until Saturday 8th July

Performances: Monday - Saturday at 7.45pm

3pm Matinees on Thursday and Saturday

Tickets: Trafalgar Studios Box Office and

0844 871 7632

Twitter: @TrafStudios, #KissMe

Production photographs © Robert Day

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